Earle Hyman (Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Earle Hyman, who played on Broadway in works by Shakespeare and Ibsen but became well known for playing Bill Cosby’s lovable father on The Cosby Show, died Friday in Englewood, N.J., at the age of 91.

Hyman’s death was confirmed to the New York Times by Jordan Strohl, a representative for the Actors Fund.

Advertisement

As the Times reports, while Hyman made a name for himself on Broadway and in Scandinavia—where he broke racial stereotypes—like many stage actors, he also paid the bills by appearing on television in soap operas, police dramas and made-for-TV movies.

On The Cosby Show, which aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, Hyman played Russell Huxtable—the father of Cosby’s character, Dr. Cliff Huxtable—in 40 episodes. Hyman was only 11 years older than Cosby but managed to provide just the right authoritative air to pull off being Cosby’s father, dispensing sage advice, along with long pieces from Shakespeare, when his TV son needed it.

Among his many stage roles, Hyman played characters that were traditionally portrayed as being white—including Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear. He also played traditionally black roles, including Othello and the chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy.

Advertisement

Hyman was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in New York in 1997.

He never married and left no immediate survivors.

Read more at the New York Times.

Advertisement